Friday, August 30, 2013

Power To The People, The Grassroots Wake-Up

Little Britain: The mouse that (finally) roared

Published time: August 30, 2013 14:49
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron is seen addressing the House of Commons in this still image taken from video in London August 29, 2013.(Reuters / UK Parliament via Reuters TV)
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron is seen addressing the House of Commons in this still image taken from video in London August 29, 2013.(Reuters / UK Parliament via Reuters TV)
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s weekend war was going according to plan.
 “I love that word ‘relationship’. It covers all manner of sins, doesn't it?”
(Hugh Grant, as the British prime minister in the film “Love Actually,” referring to the so-called “special relationship” between the UK and the US)
A horrific sarin gas attack in a suburb of Damascus kills hundreds of men, women and children: the perfect pretext for Western military intervention after two years of civil war have left 100,000 people dead and turned 2 million into refugees.
President Barack Obama, flying in Air Force One to the G20 summit in Russia, calls in the Tomahawk cruise missile strikes from US warships in the Mediterranean, and drones take out selected targets in the Syrian capital, Damascus.
The Syrian army HQ lying in a smoking heap of rubble, Obama steps off the plane in St. Petersburg to declare “victory” virtually overnight in a “punitive” attack against the Assad regime. With a dutiful Cameron at his side, Obama makes sure to add a generous note of thanks to Britain, Washington’s traditional (junior) partner in imperialist adventures, for its military support.
Cameron then steps forward and shakes the president’s hand: Mission Accomplished.
Back in London, church bells peal out in celebration as Cameron graciously receives the applause of British members of parliament and the cheers of the public lining the streets. People have forgotten his woeful economic record, the deepening recession and the latest secret services government spying scandal.
Newspaper headlines ring out: “Dictator Assad taught a lesson” (The Telegraph), “Assad’s chemical weapons base destroyed” (The Guardian) and “Bashar bashed!” (The Sun). As if by magic, Cameron’s political fortunes are transformed, just like his hero Margaret Thatcher’s were by her victory in the Falklands War….
But then Cameron wakes up. It’s all been a dream.

‘A tale of two wars’

Back in the real world, as Cameron woke up on Friday morning, the UK newspaper headlines were a little different, however.
The prime minister’s best-laid plans, urging military intervention on his senior partner in the White House, lay in ruins: All but destroyed by a vote in the British parliament, where MPs voted 285-272 against Cameron’s proposal for military action against Assad for using chemical weapons. While the vote was cited by Cameron as not a final approval, it certainly would have prepared the ground for military intervention after a follow-up vote next week.
The newspapers opposing Cameron’s Conservative-Liberal coalition were bad enough. The Labour-supporting Daily Mirror sneered: “We don’t want your war,” while The Guardian wrote: “MPs force Cameron to rule out war with Syria.

Smoke billowing from buildings in Syria's eastern town of Deir Ezzor following an airstrike by government forces.(AFP Photo / Abo Shuja)
Smoke billowing from buildings in Syria's eastern town of Deir Ezzor following an airstrike by government forces.(AFP Photo / Abo Shuja)
But it was the usually loyal Conservative newspapers that twisted the knife in his back: “The humbling of Cameron” wrote a smug Daily Mail, while the well-to-do readers of The Daily Telegraph saw “No to war, blow to Cameron” on their front page. The Sun, the UK’s top tabloid, said simply: “Cam Down.”
Yet it was The Independent newspaper’s cryptic headline, “A tale of two wars,” that summed up best why Britain’s junior partner/cheerleader/poodle relationship with Washington – perfected during the US-led interventions in Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya – had come unstuck.
The war on many people’s minds during Thursday’s debate in the House of Commons was not the one that Obama may still launch unilaterally, or with France’s support, in Syria. It was the 2003 invasion of Iraq, justified with great zeal but less honesty by then-British PM Tony Blair, whose “sexed-up” dossier on Saddam Hussein’s non-existent WMD did much to discredit the whole idea of CIA-MI6 “intelligence” reports.
Cameron, clearly feeling the shadow of the Bush-Blair lies on Iraq, felt compelled to publicly disavow the Blair-era aim of regime change, even though that is what his government has been pushing for in Damascus constantly over the last two years.
“It is not about taking sides in the Syrian conflict, it is not about invading, it is not about regime change and it is not even about working more closely with the opposition,” Cameron told a skeptical House of Commons, adding: “The well of public opinion has been well and truly poisoned by the Iraq episode.”

‘We don’t want to be conned

With Cameron’s Coalition government normally able to count on a majority of 77, the parliamentary vote should have been won hands down – even after Labour Party leader Ed Miliband backed out of a bipartisan deal to support Cameron’s war plans at the last minute.
Yet Cameron’s plans failed, as it was not just Labour MPs who voted against paving the way to war: it was members of his own government. Party managers tried to dragoon Conservative MPs into voting for military action, but more than 30 rebelled, another 30 stayed away from parliament altogether and two ministers even said they had “missed” the voting bell when it sounded.
Senior Conservative MP David Davis summed up many of the dissenters’ unease: “We don’t want to be conned into a war in effect by actions designed to do just that,” he said, noting that the case against Assad’s regime was not proven. "There are plenty of facts around, or at least reported facts, that the UN representative for human rights in Syria thought there was concrete evidence of rebels having sarin gas.”

A devastated street in the Khalidiyah district of Syria's central city of Homs. (AFP Photo / Joseph Eid)
A devastated street in the Khalidiyah district of Syria's central city of Homs. (AFP Photo / Joseph Eid)
So why did up to one-fifth of Conservative MPs rebel or stay away? In large part it was due to Blair’s Iraq legacy: they don’t want to face voters in the next election, at most two years away, with the possibility that Britain had again got involved in a war under false pretenses. Many Conservative MPs already fear they will be kicked out the election over mass dissatisfaction at the government’s tough austerity measures, and in Thursday’s debate many of them said they had received an avalanche of e-mailed complaints from local voters over Cameron’s war plans.
Polls show a clear majority of the British people are against any UK military action, with 50 percent opposing intervention, according to YouGov, and only 30 percent supporting a war in a Daily Telegraph survey
Max Hastings, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph, writing in the Daily Mail, also delivered a damning judgment on Cameron, saying he had “misread the strategic arguments, the interests of the Syrian people, the mood of Britain and now also of its Parliament.”
While Cameron suffered the worst defeat of his three years in power, the Labour opposition may not benefit that much either from the anti-war mood in the country. Miliband also comes out of the affair less than honorably. His flip-flopping – first supporting military action, then calling for more evidence of Assad’s involvement, but still supporting the principle of intervention – rankled with many Labour MPs and anti-war activists, who wanted him to fully oppose any military action.
The parliamentary rebellion against Cameron and Obama came as a big surprise to just about everyone in mainstream UK politics, mainly because it was not organized by any of the main political parties. It came, rather, from the grassroots of society – ordinary people who lobbied their MPs before Thursday’s vote, and from the legacy of protests against the Iraq war.

From tragedy to farce

In fact, as Cameron heads to the G20 summit, his dreams of imperial glory make him look more like a character from a classic British comedy than a world leader.
Not so much the “Great Britain” of Queen Victoria, Churchill, or even Thatcher, Cameron’s version is more like the TV comedy “Little Britain,” where his government is forced to play a much more self-deprecating role on the world stage.
And while politicians of various parties jaw-jawed about military intervention in speeches for several hours, for ordinary people it was much simpler. One UK Twitter user, Stenbizzle, took only 135 characters to deliver his verdict:
(By Tim Wall for RT)

Comments (1)

Andrew Foy 30.08.2013 16:43

RT- Says how it is. Cameron is a clown .

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Mark Of A Great Con

A Truly Great Phony

(By Thomas Sowell | Aug 27, 2013)
Thomas Sowell

Many years ago, I was a member of a committee that was recommending to whom grant money should be awarded. Since I knew one of the applicants, I asked if this meant that I should recuse myself from voting on his application.
"No," the chairman said. "I know him too -- and he is one of the truly great phonies of our time."
The man was indeed a very talented phony. He could convince almost anybody of almost anything -- provided that they were not already knowledgeable about the subject.
He had once spoken to me very authoritatively about Marxian economics, apparently unaware that I was one of the few people who had read all three volumes of Marx's "Capital," and had published articles on Marxian economics in scholarly journals.
What our glib talker was saying might have seemed impressive to someone who had never read "Capital," as most people have not. But it was complete nonsense to me.
Incidentally, he did not get the grant he applied for.
This episode came back to me recently, as I read an incisive column by Charles Krauthammer, citing some of the many gaffes in public statements by the President of the United States.
One presidential gaffe in particular gives the flavor, and suggests the reason, for many others. It involved the Falkland Islands.
Argentina has recently been demanding that Britain return the Falkland Islands, which have been occupied by Britons for nearly two centuries. In 1982, Argentina seized these islands by force, only to have British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher take the islands back by force.
With Argentina today beset by domestic problems, demanding the return of the Falklands is once again a way for Argentina's government to distract the Argentine public's attention from the country's economic and other woes.
Because the Argentines call these islands "the Malvinas," rather than "the Falklands," Barack Obama decided to use the Argentine term. But he referred to them as "the Maldives."
It so happens that the Maldives are thousands of miles away from the Malvinas. The former are in the Indian Ocean, while the latter are in the South Atlantic.
Nor is this the only gross misstatement that President Obama has gotten away with, thanks to the mainstream media, which sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil when it comes to Obama.
The presidential gaffe that struck me when I heard it was Barack Obama's reference to a military corps as a military "corpse." He is obviously a man who is used to sounding off about things he has paid little or no attention to in the past. His mispronunciation of a common military term was especially revealing to someone who was once in the Marine Corps, not Marine "corpse."
Like other truly talented phonies, Barack Obama concentrates his skills on the effect of his words on other people -- most of whom do not have the time to become knowledgeable about the things he is talking about. Whether what he says bears any relationship to the facts is politically irrelevant.
A talented con man, or a slick politician, does not waste his time trying to convince knowledgeable skeptics. His job is to keep the true believers believing. He is not going to convince the others anyway.
Back during Barack Obama's first year in office, he kept repeating, with great apparent earnestness, that there were "shovel-ready" projects that would quickly provide many much-needed jobs, if only his spending plans were approved by Congress.
He seemed very convincing -- if you didn't know how long it can take for any construction project to get started, after going through a bureaucratic maze of environmental impact studies, zoning commission rulings and other procedures that can delay even the smallest and simplest project for years.
Only about a year or so after his big spending programs were approved by Congress, Barack Obama himself laughed at how slowly everything was going on his supposedly "shovel-ready" projects.
One wonders how he will laugh when all his golden promises about ObamaCare turn out to be false and a medical disaster. Or when his foreign policy fiascoes in the Middle East are climaxed by a nuclear Iran.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

GW Grad Court-martialed For Political Incorrectness


Although William Lendrum “Billy” Mitchell, a GW graduate, is now considered to have paved the runway for the establishment of the nation’s Air Force, it wasn’t before he was first convicted of insubordination and resigned from the military.


The Father of the Air Force, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell

William Lendrum "Billy" Mitchell, 1899 GW Graduate
William Lendrum "Billy" Mitchell, 1899 GW Graduate. (Photo Courtesy University Archives.)

The George Washington University (GW)  graduate was so certain of the necessity of air power to ensure national security and military dominance that he accused military leadership of incompetence in 1925. He had already fallen out of favor with many military leaders after he gave a series of reports the year before that asserted the superiority of air power—an idea the Navy didn’t like—and stated his bold and ultimately accurate prediction that Japan would launch a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and U.S. bases in the Philippines.

 (His reports were compiled and published as the book Winged Defense: The Development and Possibilities of Modern Air Power—Economic and Military).
His belief in air power began after he enlisted to fight in the Spanish-American War in 1898 as a GW junior (along with several other GW volunteers).

 After the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, Mr. Mitchell went to France to set up an office for the Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps, the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force. He was elevated to the temporary rank of brigadier general while commanding allied forces in the Battle of San Mihiel in 1918. During that successful offensive, Mr. Mitchell became the first American airman to fly over German lines.
Mr. Mitchell amplified his call for military leaders to focus their attention on air power when he returned to the United States. To prove some of his theories, he set up and carried out the now famous “airplane versus battleship” tests from 1921 to 1923 in which he sunk stationary German ships from Martin MB-2 bomber airplanes. Congress awarded Mr. Mitchell a Special Congressional Medal of Honor after his death in 1936.
Mr. Mitchell completed the requirements for his GW degree in 1919 and was awarded a degree that year “as of the Class of 1899.” Mitchell Hall on the Foggy Bottom Campus is named for him.
You can find a sculpture of Mr. Mitchell in the Pre-1920 Aviation area of the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.
(By Bergis Jules)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Healing Waters Of Hungary's Thermal Baths

Whether you just want to relax or you're looking for a gentle cure for a specific ailment,

a spa with natural spring thermal water is a perfect holiday choice.

     (The largest thermal lake in the world that is suitable for bathing is located at Hévíz, Hungary)
The only 5-star hotel in Hévíz, formerly known as the Rogner Hotel & Spa Lothus Therme, is now operated by Accent Hotel Management.
The hotel, now trading under the name Lotus Therme Hotel & Spa, awaits guests with the same staff; from 15 October 2012 the new GM will be Ms Erzsébet Pusztai.

With little exaggeration, you could say that all you need to do is push a stick into the ground anywhere in Hungary and up would come thermal water, most likely with some kind of curative properties. The geological features of the Carpathian Basin are such that the earth's crust is very thin, so waters rise easily to the surface. Hungary is a land of more than 1,000 hot springs and enough spa facilities to accommodate 300,000 people at the same time! RudasThese spas are located in big cities and smaller towns throughout the country. Some are simple thermal baths serving the local community.

The Romans, no strangers to the good life, were the first to take advantage of this naturally occurring phenomenon, but Budapest also offers some of the finest examples of the "Turkish Bath" found anywhere. Today, a couple of contemplative hours in the local baths are part of the daily routine for many Hungarians - particularly those with arthritis, breathing difficulties and muscle pains.
Despite their popularity with tourists, taking a dip in the baths remains a uniquely Hungarian experience.
There are many stereotypes about Hungary: goulash, beautiful women and an impenetrable language, to name but a few...
But leave them at home – if you know where to look, Hungary is a secret garden of healing and wellness.

The Romans were the first to fall in love with Hungary, but certainly not the last… It is said that wherever they went, they built, and where they built, they bathed.

They knew of salus per aquam (“healing by water”) and made maximum use of this natural treasure.

 More than two millennia have passed, but the thermal water is showing no sign of running dry.
Today's uses of the therapeutic water bear little resemblance to those of the Roman Empire. Thermal water is now recommended for a wide variety of conditions, from the scourge of the modern age, stress, to joint pain and gynaecological or skin complaints.
Whatever the ailment, Hungary's healing garden has just the cure. Patients are spoiled for choice not only in terms of the wide range of wellness spas and resorts equipped according to the highest medical standards, but also when it comes to accommodation – there is something for all tastes and budgets. Whether you chose one of the famous cities, such as Budapest, Eger, Esztergom, Szeged or Visegrád, the opulent vineyards of Transdanubia, or the holiday capital of Lake Balaton, there is something for everyone.

Need any more convincing to spend a relaxing holiday in one of the sunniest and most hospitable countries in the world? Browse this web blog and learn more about the centuries of bathing culture that awaits you wherever you go in Hungary!

The word, massage, originally came from the French masser. It is the act of kneading, rubbing, stroking or tapping the body in a planned and controlled way. Massage has a relaxing and at the same time activating effect on the tissues and muscles. It invigorates the blood supply, restores the skin and lymphatic functions. Breathing deepens. It is advisable to have infrared thermo-therapy prior to taking a massage.

Different forms of massage should be applied for different problems and therapies: classical massage, acupressure, relaxation massage, lymph draining massage, foot reflex massage, connective tissue massage, brush massage, underwater pressure massage and meridian massage.

 The word, spa, derives from the abbreviation of the Latin ‘sanus per aquam’ (health through water). In fact the term holds particular significance in Hungary, famed as the land of thermal and medicinal waters. Today medicinal baths, wellness centers, clinics and health hotels use the beneficial effects of water in a whole variety of ways, from the pearl bath through Kneipp treatments all the way to health-oriented spa regions. The word spa has become an international term in the area of whirlpool- and sauna baths, swimming pools, steam baths, beauty farms and wellness centers.

The River Danube once formed the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire – the area today known as Transdanubia was at that time the province of Pannonia. Its capital was Aquincum (from the Latin aqua, meaning water) in what is now Budapest. Archaeologists have unearthed 21 Roman baths in this area: remains of fine mosaics remind us that bathing has been part of this region’s culture for over 2,000 years. Hungary fell to the Turks in the 16th century. Is it possible that the Ottomans invaded – and stayed for 150 years – because they were attracted by the abundance of thermal water?!

Some of the Turkish baths they built during their occupation – including those in Eger, and the Rác and Rudas in Budapest – are still functioning today.
The Baths and Wellness Centre at Gyula is situated in the mature grounds of a stately home, next to Hungary’s only medieval brick-built castle. Many country mansions have been restored and converted into luxury hotels, and the best of these offer a range of modern health-related services and facilities. Guests staying at the country-house hotels in Parádsasvár,Röjtökmuzsaj, Hőgyész and Bikal can expect to be treated like royalty!
Budapest - Spa City
So beautiful is Budapest that several areas of the city have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites – including the romantic Danube riverscape and the Parisian boulevard of Andrássy út. Over 100 of Hungary’s mineral springs emerge in Budapest, and half of these feed the city’s thermal baths. Two of the grandest bathing complexes – the Széchenyi and the Gellért– date from the turn of the 20th century, when many large-scale architectural projects were commissioned to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the Magyar Conquest.
Unique Places
The largest thermal lake in the world that is suitable for bathing is located at Hévíz, in western Hungary.

The water temperature never drop below 79°F/26°C – even in the depths of winter – and the lake is surrounded by hotels and sanatoria.
Miskolctapolca, in the northeast of the country, boasts a unique cave lake. Situated on a geological fault line on the edge of the Bükk Hills, it is the site of both cold karst- and hot-water springs.
There is also a new spa hotel at Egerszalók; the steaming terraces of snow-white calcium crystals on the green hillside are a spectacle to behold.

Whether it's peace and quiet you're after or a calendar full of things to see and do, Lake Balaton is here to satisfy your every need.

Smooth waters and fresh wines, sand and surf, fishing and frolicking, splashing and sailing, concerts and clubs, partying and paddle boating, beach volleyball and biking, elegant castles and sleepy villages, beautiful landscapes and crystal clear air, Lake Balaton has it all.

The highlights on the northern shore of Lake Balaton include romantic strolls along the pretty  streets of Balatonfüred oozing 19th century charm and hiking to the top of Tihany for a breathtaking view of the lake in the lavender scented air.

Just a few million years ago geysers spouted hot water into the air on the Tihany peninsula.

Take a hike on the lunar landscape near the Inner Lake to see the evidence. Just a short ride from here to the west, between Balatonudvari and Örvényes, you'll find one of the most spectacular golf courses of Hungary, Royal Balaton Golf & Yacht Club.
The volcanic slopes further west along the shore are the perfect terrain for refreshing white wines.

Badacsony is a perfect spot for hiking, but a local myth makes it even more worthwhile for couples.

 If you and your loved one sit on the Rose Stone with your backs to the lake (it's hard to turn away from the view, we know), legend has it you'll be married within a year.

Now that deserves a toast, right?

Explore the many wine cellars and their fabulous wines

and mouth watering dishes until you find your favourite one.

Behind the basalt mountain of Badacsony you can find the fairytale valley called the Káli Basin. Visit its lovely quiet villages and move on to the mineral waters at Kékkút, source of Theodora Quelle waters.
At the western peak of  Lake Balaton, you will not only find the source of health in the largest natural medicinal thermal water lake in the world at Hévíz, but also one of the three largest baroque palaces of the country, the Festetics Palace in Keszthely.
     If you like great contrasts, after the grandeur and elegance of the palace, don't miss out on the area's tiny jungle, the Little Balaton. It's paradise for endangered plants and for birds, with tens of thousands arriving as if for an annual convention at migration time. Patient birdwatchers have counted 250 species, of which 100 nest here and 27 are protected.

The southern shores of Lake Balaton will lull you with their quiet charm. This area became the Riviera of the Communist countries.

The Socialist government installed in Hungary after World War Two went to great lengths to develop social tourism for the workers. This led to nationalization of the existing facilities, expropriation of lands and villas, and the establishment of holiday camps.
      During the Communist Era after the Iron Curtain descended on Eastern Europe, Lake Balaton was the main locale where German families from the East could meet with their relatives from the West without complications.

Small towns oozing character, showcase living traditions of arts and crafts, spas and wineries,; exquisite castle hotels and the largest walnut plantation in Europe.

But your trip to Lake Balaton won't be complete without visiting the party capital of the area, Siófok.

For those who like crowds, Siófok is the holiday resort par excellence.

The lakeside beaches are overlooked by villas, hotels, campsites, restaurants, discotheques, and shops for clothes, jewelry, bags, and souvenirs.

 Development in Siófok really exploded in the 19th Century after the construction of a railroad line. It became more readily accessible to the residents of Budapest looking for cool relief from the crowded city. The city boundaries expanded several times along Lake Balaton to accommodate the steadily increasing numbers of visitors.

      The landscape on this side of Lake Balaton provides a wealth of treats for visitors.

There are thermal baths, beaches, vineyards, wines and folklore to satisfy every taste. There is also the abundance of natural landscapes with the flora and fauna of a Garden of Eden.
        This region has played a major role in the development of tourism in Hungary and it is still one of the major drawing attractions.

After Budapest this is the most heavily visited area in Hungary. The vast majority of the tourists are German. And German is the most widely spoken foreign language in the Lake Balaton area.

 After chilling out on one of the many lidos or practicing your wakeboarding moves on the silky smooth water during the day,

this small town caters for all your partying needs with club complexes and beachside pubs where dancing on the tables is the norm,

and everything in between.

The Hungarian Baths Association has announced that from this year, 9 October has been declared the Day of Hungarian Bath Culture.
For the first time, more than 50 baths have joined the initiative offering a 50% discount on admission. Lectures presenting the history of Hungarian spas and baths will also be held at the facilities.

The central message of the country for the forthcoming years will be “healing Hungary”, announced Mr Balázs Botos, deputy state secretary of the Ministry for National Economy. Hungary has all the potential to render health tourism as a breakthrough point, he added.
In the next few years, the Hungarian message will focus on physical and mental health, but “with the help of gastronomy, the quality of life and tourism services will also improve”. To achieve this, more support should be given to the catering industry, the politician added. In order to improve the possibilities, the demand and the offer should be more balanced. Problems include the lack of restaurants offering traditional gastronomy values, fresh Hungarian ingredients are often missing from the menu and the education system is also out of date.

When Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi was asked if he believed in extraterrestrials, he replied:
"They are among us, but they call themselves Hungarians"
This small country is one of the oldest European countries, situated in the middle of the continent in Central Europe.
Hungarians speak a language and form a culture unlike any other in the region: this distinctiveness has been both a source of pride and an obstacle for more than 1100 years.
This is the country
- which boasts one of the world's most beautiful cities: Budapest, the "Pearl of the Danube"
- where 2000 year old Roman ruins and 400 year old Turkish monuments can be found side by side
- where Central Europe's largest fresh water lake - Balaton - is located, providing natural paradise for its visitors
- where hundreds of therapeutic mineral springs gush up from the depths
And there is something else that keeps bringing visitors back to us - the legendary Hungarian hospitality.